Flagstaff, Arizona - Backcountry of The San Francisco Peaks and Kachina Peaks Wilderness
Format and Limitations Statement
Coverage has improved with the Tuesday night storm, but base depth is still thin and backcountry skiing or boarding is not recommended. The thin coverage will make a backcountry tour difficult and likely damaging for gear and body. Current base depth is 19" at 10,800'. The shallow snowpack is comprised of weak facets, and is unsupportable.
On Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning (Dec. 14/15) approximately 7" (18cm) of relatively dense (30%) snow accumulated near treeline, accompanied by strong southwesterly gusts up to 67mph. Southwesterly slopes had noteworthy riming.
Until sufficient coverage exists for backcountry observations, there will be significant uncertainty with the current snowpack. The general consensus is that the few inches of early season snow (from Oct. and Nov.) has faceted, creating a weak base. December accumulations (and wind deposits) may create a slab over this weak base. This scenario will be most pronounced on northerly slopes near/above treeline where there are few anchors - slopes with a continuous and smooth substrate of cinder-gravel or grass, and leeward slopes from the recent southwest wind events.
Looking forward, models for late next week indicate a west coast trough moving inland over Arizona and tapping subtropical moisture. Snow levels could be elevated. See more in weather section.
Now is the time to dust off your avalanche-rescue gear, and practice your rescue skills.
Expect the coverage to be too thin for safe touring. The best coverage appears to be on some easterly and northeasterly slopes (see photos below), but looks can be deceiving and these slopes probably do not have adequate coverage for safe turns. Even if high elevation slopes with sufficient coverage exist, obvious and hidden obstacles will make your approach and egress hazardous.
Watch for new cohesive snow layers (slabs) over faceted early season snow on northerly and eastern facing slopes where there are few anchors - slopes with a continuous and smooth substrate of cinder-gravel or grass.
Very thin coverage. Expect rocks and logs to make safe touring difficult to impossible.